Freeze Frame. Robert Hershon. Pressed Wafer. Brooklyn, New York. 2015.
A Poverty Row Production
Now they are all asleep
I am waiting for the toast to pop up
Listening to a chewing gum commercial
my eyes begin to fill
I have become a man who cries at old movies
not when the crippled rancher's son
is killed in the war
but when Jane Powell starts singing
on the hayride
Robert Hershon's Freeze Frame is growing up at the movies. Lash La Rue, Tex Ritter and Randolph Scott ride roughshod all over this sunset. Hershon writes directly accessible anecdotal gems, think of them as short films that magically contain the whole story.
Today's book of poetry often thinks of poems as short movies. This combination of cinema, memory and nostalgia works magic.
Every Saturday morning
before my father left to open the store
he's leave a dollar on the dresser so
Susie and I could go to the movies
The Loews Gates or the RKO Bushwick
With that dollar we could get two 25 cent tickets
and have plenty left over for Raisinets (her) and
Goobers (me) plus popcorn, but
we had to sit in the children's section
a noisy little ghetto ruled by The Matron
a large woman in a white uniform, with a big flashlight
and a terrible temper, no wonder. I think the same woman
managed to be present simultaneously in every theater in Brooklyn
We'd sit through the double feature and the cartoons, the coming
attractions and "the chapter," at least once, maybe twice.
Then, to really get our money's worth
make noise the throw stuff until we got thrown out
When I turned 12, I had to pay the adults admission: 50 cents
but -- I still bristle at the injustice -- the law said you had to
sit in the children's section until you were 16. Imagine.
Sometimes we'd show up and the children's section was full!
You could only get in if you were accompanied by an adult
One of us, let's say me, would linger near the box office until some poor
dope with a hangover would show up at noon. Hey mister, hey mister
take me in with you? Yeah, okay (mumbled). And my friends, too, mister?
(They emerged from the shadows.) Please, my friends too?
Okay. Okay. It was only after we were inside that
the poor bastard learned his horrible fate. These kids come in with you?
(Dull nod) Then they got to sit with you!
When I turned 14, large enough to pass for 16, I made my break. I got
to escape to the balcony. To sit by myself in the balcony, in the
By myself, smoking Lucky Strikes. By myself high up in the dark.
It was the beginning of what I thought of as adulthood and
I thought it would just keep getting better and better.
Today's book of poetry watched with considerable amusement during this morning's read, as fast as Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, or Milo, our head tech, could reel one of Hershon's poems off -- the other would give us a flying update of the characters within. Most of my young minions knew who Groucho Marx was but when Zeppo, Chico and Harpo danced into our offices, some of the youngsters were in deeper water.
Today's book of poetry studied film in university, worked as an usher at the local theater in high school and even worked briefly as a projectionist for an art house cinema. Which is to say that Today's book of poetry loves movies almost as much as poetry. A book of poetry about the movies is almost as good as a car that travels through time. We liked this little book a lot.
31 years since Bogart died
Time sure flies when you don't lurch
down Bergen Street every morning
the sun slanting through the early spring
sycamores but so what? heading for the airless train
saying Well, here's another morning on which
Humphrey Bogart is dead
Get some popcorn, take a seat in the balcony in the cool dark. The newsreel is about to start, or a short or the Stooges, the feature, the Western, the Mystery, the magic.
You just have to open the cover of Freeze Frame and you're there.
ABOUT THE AUTHORFreeze Frame is Robert Hershon's fourteenth book. Robert Hershon’s 12th poetry collection, Calls from the Outside World, was published in 2006. His other titles include The German Lunatic and Into a Punchline: Poems 1986-1996. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, the World, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ploughshares and The Nation, among many others and has brought him two NEA fellowships and three from New York State. He serves as executive director of The Print Center, Inc., and has been a co-editor of Hanging Loose Press and Hanging Loose magazine since the dawn of time. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, writer Donna Brook, and has two grown children.
This is your invitation to watch the procession of Hollywood greats—Bogart, the Marx Brothers, Myrna Loy, Rosemary Clooney, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, King Kong—with a wise and witty observer in a movie palace that has clouds in the ceiling and stars on the silver screen.
- David Lehman
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